Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One time, at EdCamp...

Who wakes up at 6 am on a Saturday to go learn about new stuff in education?  This girl.

Last Saturday, Russ and I hit the road at 6:45 to head west to Omaha for EdCamp!  We arrived a little before 9:00.  Right away, I walked in and saw many unfamiliar, and a few familiar, faces.  It was actually really happy to see many unfamiliar faces, because that meant I was going to make some new connections.

Most current education conferences focus on technology because that's the "new" thing most people are trying to implement in their classrooms.  I purposefully (no offense to anyone) made it a goal to avoid sessions focused on technology.  My technology plate feels kind of full right now.  I view lots of links of new ideas on Twitter about what new website or app to try.  When I come to a conference, I come for the conversations that stretch me.

All three sessions I attended were in the same "genre" of discussion: 21st Century Classrooms, Creativity, and Authentic Learning.  I felt like the conversation built naturally on itself from one session to the next.  Some of my take-aways from the day were:

  • We need to revive the learning spaces we have.  They need to feel more natural, welcoming, home-like.
  • I'm not sure I'm a fan of grade-levels.  My son walked at 13 months.  Some kids walk at 9 months.  Some don't walk until 15 months.  Trying to cram all these kids in the same room and teach them the same thing just because they're of the same age isn't quite working.
  • To encourage people to do the arts, we need to make them a priority in our schools.  Right now, we basically label some subjects as useful and some as useless.
  • Life is based on diversity.  We don't want canned results, yet we treat all students as if they're on the college route.  
    • Many times, students leave school not knowing what they're good at.  
    • Talents aren't discovered because we get too focused on standards/benchmarks.
    • We need to give students time to explore things outside the "curriculum."
  • "Covering curriculum” is focusing on teaching, not on learning.
    • We're focusing on learning stuff instead of how to learn.
  • We need to be more of a "guide on the side" and not the "sage on the stage."
The big thing I'm struggling with after this is all the talk (which is what I came for). Where's the action? Where do I go from here?


  1. I think your final sentence sums up what seems to be the final lingering thought of so many conferences lately --
    "okay, thanks for sharing....but now what?"

    I have decided -- for me -- I can no longer expect nor anticipate an action plan from conferences. For 2 reasons --
    a. they don't know my teachers
    b. they don't know my students

    Which then leads to my next decision....I will no longer attend conferences that I don't take at least ONE staff member along with me.....

    so that on the way home -- we can decide on a plan of action. for our school community, based on what we have just learned.

    Smiles, I know I am responding to just one sentence of your entire post (which I enjoyed very much)....but that sentence struck home with me...and just wanted to share my thoughts.


  2. Thanks for your comment, Jen. It's true. Conference creators don't know your teachers. EdCamp conferences are created BY teachers, though, so they usually contain many applicable things that we're all struggling with. My principal came with me to the last EdCamp, but no one could attend this time. I hope that I can share my notes with them and we can still apply it. =)

  3. As a teacher turned school administrator, I am in the same boat in general, sister. "...all the talk (which is what I came for). Where's the action? "

    The folks with ideas are present and many of those ideas make sense. Are the folks with the authority to move the change forward? In some instances, yes and in other instances, no.

    Rather than being able to take the big leaps forward (i.e. eliminating grade levels), many of us are left making smaller changes towards those ideals. A wise twitter colleagues continues to remind to not let "perfection get in the way of progress. What does that look like for you after attending this conference? What does that look like for me after attending a different conference?

    I think it starts with a blog post - putting thoughts on paper - and you've done just that.

  4. As much fun as it is to discuss (debate?) the ideas we have to make school better, most of us are in the unfortunate position to do very little real changes in the classroom. It seems that often I hear something that might work like going away from students put in grades according to age instead of ability and I follow that with the "yeah, but it won't happen in my school" thought. This can be pretty frustrating.

    I do see Edcamps as a beginning of something bigger though. The more we get together, build trust, and come to consensus on what we want/expect the sooner we can build up our political clout, perhaps with the outcome being some real changes that benefit student learning.

  5. @Matt and @Wm

    I think maybe form what I'm hearing from you...we need to get our admins into these discussions. My principal attended EdCamp KC. Or, maybe we could share the ustream sessions with them. We have to have support from the top!

  6. Getting admin involved would be great! EdCamp was such a wonderful way to reflect on my teaching and be around like minded individuals. We can not stop talking about how great of a time we had at edCampOmaha.

    Already can't wait until next year.

  7. Reading this blog post was different to me because your the first person that isn't more interested in technology. You are more interested in tradition learning as I would say. I think that's important. I like the things you said you grasped from EdCamp. Especially the arts and the talent that isn't being discovered. Students do need to learn outside from the curriculum.

    Thank you,
    Annie DuBroc

  8. @Robert Getting leadership on board is key!

    @Annie Thanks for your comment. I am interested in technology, but technology can't be the change in our schools. It needs to be the teaching and learning that change. Technology is a tool that can help.

  9. I am a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I really don't know what to think about not having grade levels. Some children are naturally smarter or develop motor skills sooner than others but the wide range of maturity development is why I think levels are necessary. I strongly agree with your statement that schools have become more focused on teaching rather than learning. Do you feel that all the standardized test are supposed to be a reflection of the teacher's ability or the student's learning?

  10. @Neely Courtney You have a good point about grade-leveledness needed for maturity. Could that like-age grouping be achieved in a different way, like homeroom, music, PE, etc.?

    I'm not really sure about what standardized tests reflect. I think they reflect both teacher and student overall, though I have had students score poorly on a test because they weren't in the mood or were in a hurry that day. It's hard to know what they really mean without having the student in the conversation.

    Thanks for your comment!

  11. Your suggestion for like-age grouping perhaps could be a great idea in those type settings!